First Minister names company involved in collapsed coronavirus testing kit deal

First Minister Mark Drakeford has named the company involved in a collapsed deal over coronavirus testing kits.

This comes just a day after Health Minister Vaughan Gething said they would "absolutely not" reveal the pharmaceutical company's identity.

After being questioned by Plaid Cymru's leader Adam Price, Mr Drakeford confirmed it was with Roche that the Welsh Government had previously had a written agreement with.

The deal between Welsh Government and Roche was supposed to increase the amount of tests each day by 5,000.

However, that deal fell through and Mr Gething announced last week that the company were ''not able to honour that agreement.''

The Swiss pharmaceutical giant has denied ever having a "contract or agreement directly with Wales" to supply tests.

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Mr Gething said 'we are not going to be getting into naming a company, our focus has got to be on providing more tests with the resources and the routes that we have got.'

On Tuesday, Mr Gething said "We're absolutely not going to name the company that were due to provide 5,000 tests for Wales, we've been really clear about that."

He added, "We are not going to be getting into naming a company, our focus has got to be on providing more tests with the resources and the routes that we have got.

"Those additional tests we were due to have would have made an earlier difference for us."

During the National Assembly for Wales' first 'virtual' plenary meeting today, Mark Drakeford was asked by Plaid's Adam Price if he was "prepared to confirm if the company is Roche?"

The First Minister then said it was Roche but he also emphasised that the focus should be on making more tests available and not on the name of a company.

We did have a deal; it was a deal that we had; it was with Roche. We believe that it was a deal that ought to have been honoured. We now have access to a supply of tests from a consortium of suppliers that will give us a considerable uplift in testing here in Wales. Truthfully, what I believe patients are interested in is that testing will be available...They want to know it’s there and is going to be available, and available in greater numbers, and we can be confident of that.

Mark Drakeford AM, First Minister of Wales

Adam Price welcomed the First Minister's admission but said it remained in the public interest that the Welsh Government and Roche explain why the deal had collapsed.

Mark Drakeford confirmed the company's name during the first virtual meeting of the National Assembly for Wales. Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Images

Roche Diagnostics said: "We maintain that Roche never had a contract or agreement directly with Wales to supply testing for Covid-19.

"Our absolute priority and focus at this time is to support the UK Government and NHS to scale up testing across the whole of the UK, including in Wales.

"As part of the centralised rollout of testing, we will continue to speak to colleagues at Public Health Wales to move this forward as quickly as possible."

Stephen Crabb MP, chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee, has written to Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart asking questions about the deal between Roche and the Welsh Government.

Mr Crabb asked what understanding Mr Hart had of the deal the Welsh Government had in place, and if Roche had been in negotiations with Public Health England about providing tests in England.

The people of Wales need an urgent assurance that the UK and Welsh governments are working together effectively to ensure all corners of the UK are given their fair share of testing kits.

Stephen Crabb MP, Preseli Pembrokeshire

A spokesman for Public Health England said: "The UK Government recently asked Public Health England to establish a partnership with Roche to support increased diagnostic testing in the UK for Covid-19.

"Testing in Wales using the Roche capabilities is due to begin next week.

"Public Health England has agreed with Public Health Wales that any additional testing requirements for Wales required in the meantime will be delivered by us.

"Public Health England did not intervene in any discussions between Roche and Wales."

On Wednesday, Wales saw its highest amount of coronavirus related deaths in one day as 29 more people lost their lives. It was also the highest day for new confirmed cases as 274 people tested positive for the virus.

These figures are the first to include deaths outside of hospitals.

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